A powerful blast has rocked a fuel storage facility in Nagorno-Karabakh, authorities in the disputed region said on Monday. The facility is near a highway linking the region’s self-styled capital of Stepanakert (known as Khankendi in Azerbaijan) to the town of Askeran in the northeast.
Videos of the incident shared on social media showed a fire raging over the area and a plume of thick black smoke. The highway near the fuel depot appeared to contain heavy traffic. According to reports, a large number of vehicles were lining up for gas at the time of the blast.
Local media stated that more than 200 people have been killed or injured. The Nagorno-Karabakh Interior Ministry confirmed there had been casualties, but did not provide further details.
Armenian authorities have not commented on the incident, while officials in Baku and the Russian peacekeeping force stationed in the disputed region are also yet to issue any statements.
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The incident occurred as large numbers of ethnic Armenians attempt to leave Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia, following the imposition of control by Azerbaijani forces. Baku launched “counter-terrorism measures of a local nature” in the disputed region last Tuesday, citing an alleged Armenian military buildup. Yerevan denied the accusations.
A day after the start of the operation, the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh announced a ceasefire with Azerbaijan, following a proposal by Russian peacekeepers. The leaders of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic told Reuters that as many as 120,000 Karabakh Armenians could flee their homes out of fear of ethnic cleansing. Azerbaijani officials have vowed to guarantee the rights of ethnic Armenians during the re-integration of the region.
According to the Interfax news agency, 6,650 people have thus far arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.
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